Taking the oral tradition of the Western Isles forward is the inaugural 'Stornowords' Open-Mic Poetry night, making its debut on Saturday, June 11th in Artizan Café, Church Street, Stornoway.
The brainchild of poet and spoken word artist Matthew Nicholson, Stornowords – which hopes to become a regular fixture at Artizan – will feature guest poet Peter Kerr.
Well known throughout the islands' literary scene as member of the Uist Writer's Group, with regular appearances at Taigh Chearsabhagh's monthly live poetry evenings Taigh Ciuil, Peter is looking forward to the first Stornowords event.
“I am thrilled and delighted to have been invited,” he said. “Stornoway is my grandfather's birthplace so it has a special place in my heart. “An inaugural event is always special, and poetry is full of surprises!” Peter added.
The surprise for event organiser Matthew, who is originally from Leeds but has spent the past year living with family in Point as he recuperates from illness, was the wealth of talent and literary creativity alive and well in the Western Isles. “I've been surprised by the interest [in Stornowords], but also by the amount of poets there are in the islands,” he said.
“There's an oral tradition, a storytelling tradition on the islands, but there seems to be a gap in poetry being performed here and doesn't seem to be anything like this available already,” Matthew continued.
“Now I'm getting back on track I want to try and give something back to the islands and give an opportunity to get people together again and involved in poetry.”
Such an opportunity has been instrumental in establishing the literary career of guest poet Peter, as he expanded: “Poetry is thriving in Scotland and Stornoway, not least because of the ancient oral tradition of Gaelic bards in the islands, deserves a place for poets to perform.
“My experience in Uist, where the poet Pauline Prior-Poet has been organising monthly poetry evenings at Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy for more than a dozen years, is that audiences at such events are appreciative and enjoy the wide variety of forms and styles that poetry encompasses.”
Peter continued: “I have always enjoyed creative writing, particularly wee vignettes of a few hundred words, and have only developed writing poetry since joining Pauline's writing workshops in North Uist in 2011. “In that time I have found my own 'voice', a style and form that I am comfortable with. I write almost daily, inspired by the people and places of the islands, and my poems are extremely small, haiku-like pieces which involve a lot of editing.
“I take enormous care to ensure each piece has a neat physical form on the page using line-breaks for punctuation but still with the emphasis always upon the words. Poetry is really very simple, you just choose some words and put them in the right order!”
And the feeling is the same for spoken word artist Matthew, who said: “What poetry is about, anyone can do. It doesn't matter how 'good' or how 'bad' it is, everyone has got the same chance.
“I find it a really therapeutic way to get things off my chest, once they are written down, it's out of your system, put away in a box. You don't need to be the next Yates or Keats to write poetry, it's just about expressing yourself in a different way, creating something for yourself.”
Having previously performed across the north of England, Matthew's first public poetry event in Lewis – the Stornoway Slam held in January this year – saw him take the winner's crown and go onto compete in the National Scottish Poetry Slam Championships in Glasgow.
Stornowords however will be run as an Open-Mic night, with no pressure on anyone attending to feel they must perform – unless they want too. “I've been to a couple of slams, but I prefer the more traditional, open-mic, style of poetry performance and I want Stornowords to be as inclusive as possible,” Matthew said. “I want people to be able to share what they've done, but there's no pressure. Through the performances I've done before you get a real sense of community coming from the audience, a warmth from everyone who is there.
“And I've seen people who had never contemplated writing before give it a go after they've seen others get up and speak, so hopefully Stornowords will have the same effect.”
Stornowords will be held on Saturday, June 11th, at Artizan Cafe, Stornoway, at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.
To find out more about the poetry of Matthew Nicholson, please visit
And Kerr's two published poetry collections – 'Cnoc and Loch' and 'There will be pauses just like this' – are available online via Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk).